Genealogists and family historians get a lot of satisfaction from chasing their ancestors’ stories. Finding a diary, a message on a postcard, or a photo with a name attached is like the sun coming out after a storm. One day we will be somebody’s ancestor. We need to leave our descendants a little bit of sunshine too. So here is my story told alphabetically, not chronologically: Growing Up in Cradock.
I was lucky to have had twelve years of dedicated, thoughtful, and creative teachers throughout public school. Only one stands out as a dud – my eighth grade English teacher. There was nothing particularly wrong with her instruction or her fairness in grading. It’s just that she embarrassed me once. I was always a good student; I did my work and came to class prepared. I raised my hand when I knew the answer. One day, my hand went up and she called on me. “What? I can’t hear you,” she barked. “Speak up.” I answered again. “I still can’t hear you. You must speak up.” Again I answered. With that, she glared at me and threatened, “You have one more chance. If I can’t hear you, I’m going to make you stand on a chair in the back of the room and yell.” Whew – like being 13 wasn’t hard enough. I guess she was satisfied finally because I was not sent to the chair.
But that was the day I became a wallflower and never volunteered an answer for the rest of my high school career.
Before anyone thinks I’m wallowing in self-pity (waah poor me), let me move on to those GOOD English teachers who were the reason I majored in English in college.
Mae Fitzgerald was my 10th grade English teacher. She was the first
teacher who made reading really FUN for me. She assigned us to various groups
to read a particular book and then do a creative presentation of it. My group
read Ethan Frome. One of the boys was “techie” before there was any technology
like we have today; his area of expertise was audio electronics and he had some
impressive equipment. Our group spent many afternoons and weekends at his house
recording a scene from the book involving a sled crashing into a tree in a
suicide-pact. Ours was a dynamite presentation in its day. Other groups had
exciting projects too for books like The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Catcher in
the Rye. Each one made me want to read.
|Cora Mae Fitzgerald|
(scanned from my yearbook)
photo taken on our field trip to Williamsburg
In my junior year, Mrs. Sharon Comer became my role model of what a teacher should be. She seemed like the perfect package: she was enthusiastic about teaching both grammar and literature, her personality made for a comfortable learning atmosphere, and besides that, she dressed cute. She did the expected things to “bring literature to life” with interesting discussion. She even arranged a field trip to Williamsburg when we were studying early American writers, but mostly it felt like a fun day away from school. As the 11th grade English teacher, her most important responsibility was teaching us how to do research and write a research paper, complete with note cards and bibliography cards and footnotes. I thank her every day for that instruction because when I was in college, I did a lot of researching and writing to earn that English degree.
Mrs. Comer did more than she was required. Our class wanted to make a movie based on the play “I Remember Mama” (at least I THINK that was the play). Mrs. Comer invited us to her home one Saturday to make plans for how we would pull off this project since it was going to be over and above the regular English 11 subject matter that we were expected to do. She even fixed lunch for everyone. Many hours were devoted outside of class to rehearsals, gathering costumes, making sets, and so forth. For some reason, the movie never got made. I can’t remember what happened, but I have not forgotten how Mrs. Comer encouraged us.
I am no toady who would try to thwart the throngs in their tenacious trek through the terrain called the A to Z April Challenge.
© 2016, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.